Former Telekom rider tells of systematic EPO
By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN, May 22 (Reuters) - Former Telekom cyclist Bert Dietz has told a German television station that the team carried out a systematic doping regime for its riders between 1994 and 1998.
In an interview broadcast on the ARD public television network on Monday, the 38-year-old said team doctors from the University of Freiburg, who were recently suspended, were fully involved in the process and sometimes administered injections.
"The doctors did the injections themselves when they were on site," said Dietz, a member of one of the top teams of the 1990s along with Tour de France winners Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich.
"When they weren't there, team masseur Jef d'Hont handled it."
D'Hont wrote in a recent book that Telekom had encouraged riders to use banned blood booster EPO.
He said Telekom Tour de France winners Riis (1996) and Ullrich (1997) used erythropoietin (EPO) and the medical team encouraged Ullrich to use the substance in 1996.
D'Hont also accused two team doctors, Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid, of administering EPO injections in 1996.
The T-Mobile cycling team, the successor to Team Telekom, suspended Schmid and Heinrich earlier this month after state prosecutors launched an investigation into d'Hont's allegations.
On Tuesday, the two doctors were suspended from their jobs by the University of Freiburg, which also recalled three other doctors who now work with T-Mobile.
Dietz's confession prompted another former Telekom rider, Christian Henn, to come forward on Tuesday and admit he took part in the EPO doping system from 1995 to 1999. Henn has been sporting director at Gerolsteiner since 2001.
"I can only say that I used EPO," he told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper in an article to appear on Wednesday.
T-Mobile spokesman Christiam Frommert told German television that they planned to continue their investigation. T-Mobile has said it has a "zero-tolerance" attitude to doping.
Dietz, whose most notable success was winning a stage of the Tour of Spain in 1995 and 1996, said the doctors gave him detailed instructions on the use of blood doping that year. He was Germany's amateur cycling champion before joining Telekom.
"And if we wanted to be riding up with the leaders we would probably have to try this stuff out," Dietz quoted the doctors telling him. "The potential side effects and risks were explained. Then in principle it was a decision left to us."
When asked by talk show host Reinhold Beckmann if the doctors "ordered" or "offered" EPO, Dietz said: "They offered it, but in a way that everyone knew 'if I don't take that now I'll likely have poor results and my contract won't be extended'."
Dietz said the doctors were integrated in training plans.
"It was Telekom's wish. In these individual conversations that we all took part in the general cycling situation was first discussed," he added.
"Then, the Telekom situation was discussed and it was explained that we would be under pressure in the spring.
"And if we wanted to be up at the front, we'd probably have to try out this new means."
Dietz said he got regular injections until leaving the team in 1998. He said there was "practically no risk" of failing doping tests because there was no method to test for EPO until 2001. He also explained why he was coming clean now.
"I spent months wrestling with this but my wife and I agreed that I had to take this step, to put an end to that chapter and help others find the courage. I can talk openly now because I'm not part of the system anymore," said Dietz, who retired in 2000.
T-Mobile went through a major restructuring process last season after a scandal-filled year, which included the dismissal of Ullrich shortly before the Tour de France.
Former Telekom team boss Walter Godefront has rejected d'Hont's charges while there has been no comment from either Ullrich and Riis.
Germany's Ullrich retired from racing last month. Dane Riis is team manager with the CSC outfit.